The Sandwich Islands
Missionaries in Hawaii
From 1837 to 1840, nearly 20,000 Hawaiians finally chose to accept Christianity as their new religion. The missionaries translated the Hawaiian language to written form; previously their heritage stories and history were verbally passed from generation to generation. This was the first time they were able to read and write their own language. Schools were established throughout the islands as rapidly as possible. By 1831, only 11 years after the missionaries' arrival, some 52,000 pupils had been enrolled. The missionaries introduced western medicine and undertook the Kingdom's first modern census.
Mormon missionaries arrived in Hawai‘i in 1850, twenty years after Joseph Smith founded the church. Hokulani K. Aikau traces how Native Hawaiians became integrated into the religious doctrine of the church as a “chosen people”—even at a time when exclusionary racial policies regarding black members of the church were being codified. Aikau shows how Hawaiians and other Polynesian saints came to be considered chosen and how they were able to use their venerated status toward their own spiritual, cultural, and pragmatic ends.
Daily Alta California, Thursday Morning, April 10, 1851, San Francisco, California
HONOLULU, March 6, 1851
MESSRS EDITORS:--The Missionary body is the most remarkable feature of society in the Sandwich Islands. But with regard to its merits, the foreign residents (for the natives cannot be fairly said to hold an opinion of their own) are divided in opinion. There are two well defined parties in existence, Missionary and Anti-Missionary, both of which seem equally inclined to run into extremes. An impartial statement of the case may be therefore not misplaced, even in a California journal; for owing to the political, in addition to the spiritual agency of this body, American interests are directly concerned in it. But I offer the following observations with some reserve, knowing how difficult it is entirely to free the judgment from the bias of former association, induced by having been long engaged in hot warfare, with printers’ devils for powder monkeys on behalf of missionaries in another country, where they had been oppressed, and most unjustly maligned.
There are two questions to consider in the matter which it is necessary to separate, as they only tend mutually to embarrass each other a religious and a temporal question the merits of missionary agency in the conversion of the natives, and its influence in advancing or retarding the political prosperity of the country.
With regard to the introduction of Christianity, too much praise can hardly be bestowed on their efforts. Even those who differ from them in opinion with regard to the expediency of certain measures connected with it must allow that their earnestness and energy of action, should command the thanks of all who have any respect for the cause which the missionaries have undertaken to serve. For it is not a little that they accomplished. Not so much, indeed, as they profess, or even believe themselves to have accomplished; but that the country under their charge has made a great stride in advance, none but the willfully blind can file to see. They have at all events secured the preliminary step, the introduction of the outward forms of religion throughout the country, a most important point to gain. That they have as yet succeeded in making anything more than formalists, or nominal Christians, I do not believe. But neither do I believe that any other set of men could have succeeded better in their place.
The result of my own experience of missionary labor among the heathen, in various parts of the world, is that it takes three generations to make a Christian, in the true sense of the word. Habits of thought are bred in men, as habits of action in the brute creation. But still these labors have approximated to the period of ultimate success, for there is now one generation less to be worked upon.
Of certain errors in judgment by which the morality of their pupils has suffered, I shall take another opportunity to speak, being more anxious for the present to give them heir full meed of honor in their particular vocation, where it is justly due.
But with regard to the temporal advancement of the country, it appears to have been much retarded by the. Civilization (it is the fashion to call it here) would have been equally introduced without their aid. In that the foreign commercial agents have been the main agents from the beginning, and remain so still. But the crowning fault of the missionaries has been political interference.
Unfortunately they have not confined themselves to their legitimate sphere of action; and being fired with a certain Calvinistic zeal which cannot refrain from hurrying into extremes, have been the cause of not a little mischief. By a line of conduct parallel to that of Pitchard, the British Consul, whose intolerance was the prime cause of misfortune to the Tahitians, they brought the country into one very serious difficulty; whilst another cause of dispute (of which the dismantled fort and broken guns still present commemorative evidence) is ultimately traceable to their influence, and is even still involving the government in diplomatic embarrassment. They are, to all intents and purposes, a political priesthood; not, as a body, assuming power openly, but notoriously pulling the strings, like Punch’s showman, behind the scenes, and as unacknowledged agents, therefore irresponsible.
As usual, extremes have met. None will be more surprised than themselves at being accused of anything that savors of Popery; yet the lust of power and the favoring of hierarchy is as strong in the Sandwich Islands as at home. That it is mainly fostered in the Protestant Missionary by an internal conviction that he can turn his influence to good account that by means of political power he believes himself enabled more effectually to serve the country, must be allowed; but the same concession, in all fairness, must be made to the priest of Rome. Both are actuated by similar feelings, and so far as missions are concerned by similar honesty of purpose; for they of the Propaganda at Rome, who wear the red band around the neck in token of willingness to go forth where certain death awaits them, however they may err in doctrine, are surely no self-seekers. And in both there is similar self-deception if they think themselves able to carry out the policy of an enlightened age.
In this the Sandwich Island missionaries are a good half century behind the times. They are not men of the world. It only redounds to their credit that they should not be of it; but, unfortunately, they are so blind to one of their own virtues, as to undertake the management of worldly matters. Unable, from the nature of their arduous task, to see the world without leisure to make themselves acquainted, even by reading, with sublunary matters, they dwindle into narrow mindedness, and nurse the growth of sectarian prejudices which utterly unfit them from moving onwards with the age. And the consequent dislike in which they are held by so many of the foreign residents, who care little for the conversion of Kanakas, but are sincerely anxious for the advancement of the country, because they themselves are carried onward with it, is strong corroboration of what I have here advanced. "Illiberality" and "want" of "Christian Charity" are the mildest expressions applied to the clerical politicians; and it must be confessed that the former term, at all events, is not unjustly used.
March 20, 1895, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.
THE MISSIONARY POWER IN HAWAII.
Thomas G. Shearman Says That It Is a Failure and a Menace.
ITS ACTION UNDER REVIEW.
The Proposition of Annexation Denounced as Full of Peril.
From the New York Times.
At last Friday night's prayer-meeting in Plymouth Church Thomas G. Shearman, in his characteristically forceful way, had something to say condemnatory of missionary work in Hawaii, which has led to considerable discussion in religious circles.
Mr. Shearman's remarks were not reported in the local papers, and as some misstatements have been made concerning what he really said, the New York Times gives what he has to say about the matter.
"More than a year ago," said Mr. Shearman, "I told Dr. Abbott that in my opinion the proceedings in Hawaii reflected great discredit, not only upon the American name generally, but especially upon our American missionaries and the Congregational church, which had sent them there and seemed generally disposed to sustain the actions of the missionaries' sons."
"At that time what appeared to be Dr. Abbott's opinion?"
"He never told me what he thought about it, and expressed doubts as to the correctness of my information, and mentioned some names of persons who had been to Hawaii and approved of the action taken there. He was opposed to any interference by the United States, although, admitting, as I understood, that it was due to the intervention of the United States troops that the Queen and the native authorities had been deprived of power.
"This was at the time when there was an active controversy whether the United States should intervene or not. I rather desired to speak on the subject at that time at some of the minor-church meetings, but deferred to Dr. Abbott and to the advice of some friends, who, however, agreed with me in my general views. I remained silent for much more than a year, but the recent establishment of court-martial in Honolulu and the violent measures taken to suppress an incipient rebellion determined me to speak without consulting anybody.
"On Friday evening, therefore, I rose and said I proposed to speak my mind on a subject which I would not name, leaving it to Dr. Abbott, who led the meeting, to say whether I should speak then or a week later."
"And what did Dr. Abbott say to that?"
"He very courteously expressed his preference that I should speak then, which I did. I said in substance that while it would not seem advisable to bring into the church meetings a purely political question, yet where grave moral questions were involved and action taken which affected the honor and good faith of the Christian churches of our own order it was proper to bring such subjects into a church meeting.
"I said that had Mr. Beecher been still alive I felt perfectly certain that he would long ago have expressed from Plymouth pulpit most emphatic opinions upon this subject; that he would never have allowed a weaker race to be practically enslaved by white Americans especially Congregationalists and sons of Congregational missionaries without making a protest which would have been heard all over the land. I did not expect Mr. Abbott to do all that Mr. Beecher would have done, but thought some member of Plymouth Church should take the responsibility of saying, as well as he could, what Mr. Beecher would certainly have said with much more eloquence and far more effect.
"I then said, in substance, that seventy years ago the American Board of Foreign Missions sent a few Congregational missionaries to the Sandwich Islands, who were received by the people with enthusiasm. They did not really have to convert the people, for they were already for conversion.
"The chiefs and the people threw away their idols and embraced Christianity with all their hearts. So complete was their trust in the missionaries that, practically, all government was placed under missionary control, and the missionaries and their sons or their nephews had ever since had the practical government of the islands. What had been the result?
"They found 130,000 people there, and now they report that they are only 34,000. But of these 34,000 they recently reported that 18,000 were members of Congregational churches a larger proportion of church members than can be found in any other Protestant country in the world. The missionaries boasted that those natives were better educated, better behaved and more peaceable, orderly and religious, in proportion to their numbers, than the people of many parts of the United States.
"The triumph of religion, and especially of Congregationalism, in Hawaii, was made the subject of endless boasts by missionaries and managers of missions, and was made the ground of appeals to American Christians for fresh subscriptions and aid for missionary work.
"Suddenly their whole tone changed. The missionaries' sons and some returned missionaries vehemently asserted that the native Hawaiians were filthy and ignorant and a debased, licentious and idolatrous race utterly unfit to be trusted with liberty, but must be kept under the control of a firm and unscrupulous but pious Congregational despotism.
"Assuming this to be true, then the result of between fifty and sixty years' unbroken missionary government in these islands has been that the population has been reduced in number by three-quarters and that these three-quarters are as debased, licentious and brutal as they were when the missionaries began their labors and that the whole missionary enterprise has been a disgraceful failure.
"Meanwhile there are some other facts, which the missionaries do not mention, but which cannot be disputed. During the fifty years the government of these islands was under missionary influence most of the natives were deprived of their rights in the land, excepting about 27,000 acres, and all the rest was divided among the King, the chiefs and the families and friends of the missionaries.
"The missionaries' sons and their associates boast that they own four-fifths of all the property of the islands. Nearly all the rest is owned by the descendants of the former chiefs. The great mass of the people own nothing. The missionary government, finding that the natives would not work for less than 25 cents a day, complained of the want of labor, and insisted on the importation of scores of thousands of the scum of the human race, including Chinese and what are called Portuguese, a mongrel race, who never saw Portugal, but who speak something resembling the language of that country.
"In this manner the missionaries' sons cut down the wages of the native Hawaiians and compelled them to work on their sugar plantations at such rates as seemed good to their masters.
"Before the missionaries gained control of the islands leprosy was unknown. But with the introduction of strange races leprosy established itself and rapidly increased. An entire island was very properly devoted to the lepers. No Protestant missionaries would venture among them.
"For this I do not blame them, as no doubt I should not have had the courage to go myself. But a noble Catholic priest consecrated his life to the service of the lepers, lived among them, baptized them, educated them and brought some light and happiness into their wretched lives.
"Stung by the contrast of his example, the one remaining missionary, a recognized and paid agent of the American Board, spread broadcast the vilest slanders against Father Damien. He said that Father Damien was dirty. Much good missionaries can do among a wretched and degraded people if they hold themselves aloof from those who are dirty! Did the Apostles take care never to touch the dirty hands or sit against the dirty clothes of their early converts?
"He accused the good father of vile practices. But the vileness was in the Congregational missionary's mouth, not in the Catholic missionary's life, and under threats of exposure and legal punishment the Congregational missionary sneaked out of the accusation. Yet, after he had degraded himself in the eyes of every decent man, he remains, if I am correctly informed, still a well-paid, well-housed, comfortably-cared-for agent of the American Board in Hawaii. Of course, he is an ardent an negationist.
"And now the very same men who by hundreds and thousands have protested with pious indignation against the Southern States for their practical disenfranchisement of the Southern negroes, who are by the confession of their own best men vastly below the moral standard which the Hawaiian missionaries have until lately boasted as the particular attribute of their converts, are full of enthusiasm over what, with bitter irony, is called the Hawaiian republic.
"A republic, forsooth, in which no man can vote unless he has property which would be equivalent to the possession of $5000 in Brooklyn, and in which no one can vote for Senator who is not worth $3000, which is equivalent to $20,000 in Brooklyn.
"But even with this restriction of the suffrage our republican missionaries are afraid to trust their republican voters. Accordingly they did not care to allow the people, under any limitations whatever, to elect the President, but having got control of the Constitutional Convention, they appointed Mr. Dole President, to hold office for six years, and just so much longer as the Senate and Assembly should fail to agree on a successor; restricting the choice, even then, to such persons as should be agreeable to a majority of the Senate, which will be elected by about 200 of the richest men on the islands.
"Nor do they stop here. They passed laws severely punishing any one who dares to speak disrespectfully of any of their high mightiness. Any one, whether a native or an American who dares to say that this republican government is not republican, or that any of the missionaries' sons who deign to govern the barbarous Christians of Hawaii is not well fitted for his post, is liable to a long term of imprisonment and a heavy tine.
"And yet, after all, though they have the Government and the laws and the courts and the juries all in their own hands, they are afraid to trust any of them, and on the first sign of alarm and before a blow was struck, they shut up all the courts and proclaimed martial law. And this is our pious Congregational missionary republic. This is the fruit of seventy years of Congregational teaching and missionary government.
"Now it is proposed to annex these islands, with their barbarous, idolatrous, dirty, debased, Congregational heathen, Christian idolators and the 100,000 Mongolians and half-breed Portuguese to boot, and to bring them into our republic as one of the States of our Union to help govern us. Already one branch of Congress has voted to spend $500,000 in beginning to lay a cable for this purpose, which, of course, will involve us in about $3,000,000 more, in addition to that already incurred, to enable Hawaiians to plant sugar at a cost to this country of $50,000,000, taken out of the public treasury and put into the pockets of the planters to enable them to employ Mongolians and half-breed Portuguese.
"But we are to spend many millions more in annexing them. We shall have to build warships to defend our possession when we get it.
"I consider this the most dangerous and disastrous proposition that has ever been made in this country. If successful it will launch us upon an era of colonization and of petty disgraceful foreign wars. It will bring into our Union sham republics, which will still further corrupt our already corrupt Government, and speedily destroy all reality in republican institutions.
"We are on the brink of a precipice, and a very little effort is needed to push us over. If I were standing alone on this continent I would oppose and denounce this whole scheme of foreign wars, annexation and colonial projects to the very last."
Dr. R. M. Raymond said he indorsed what Mr. Shearman had said, with the exception of some criticism on the navy. Dr. Abbott did not agree with Mr. Shearman on questions of fact, but he did agree with Mr. Shearman in his opposition to annexation.
1899. World's Fleet. Boston Daily Globe
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